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November 06, 2004

Cat number two ...

By Thanksgiving of 1999 we'd had Tink almost two years and hadn't really considered, let alone discussed, getting any more cats. Tink was okay -- she liked having the whole house to herself -- but she was, as she had been, aloof much of the time. She did have a game she liked to play with us, chasing a rabbit-fur mouse (which we called 'moosie' and which she recognized, because if one of us said 'moosie?' to her, she'd actually run upstairs and find one).

And as we all know, when things are stable and everybody's happy with them, something has to happen. Here's what happened:

We were at my mother's house, in a small declining agricultural town in Clermont County (southwestern Ohio) for Thanksgiving in '99. It was a warm day for late November, with a little greasy rain smearing everything. We'd just eaten dinner, and since nobody else in my family smokes, Tony and I had stepped out on the porch so I could have one. Mom had been talking, as we were eating dinner, about this little 'brown' cat she'd had to keep chasing away from her bird feeder. Mom's not cruel to cats, especially, but strays annoy her and she can't seem to stand the natural order -- that inattentive birds get eaten -- so she'd been spraying the little cat with a hose to chase it away. She said it wouldn't approach her (gee, what a surprise that is!) so she didn't know if it had a collar, or how old it was.

While we were standing on the porch, this little tortoiseshell cat, about half-grown, walked straight up to us. Tony crouched to pet her, and she flopped down on her back on the porch, between his shoes, and started purring.

We have since realized that we have some kind of beastmark on us, visible only to tortie cats, that says "SUCKA" -- you'll hear another story surprisingly like this one soon.

So we chose to take the kitten home with us. We had intended to drop by at Tony's family's Thanksgiving dinner, too, and leave her in the car for a half-hour or forty-five minutes, until we could head up to Dayton again. Doodle made short work of that -- she deposited, via her little pink anus, two days' worth of her haphazard diet all over my dress on the way there.

And when we got her home and attempted to wash her, partly to make her more acceptable to Tink (we knew nothing, at this point, of making introductions of a new cat to a household with existing cats), she bit a hole through my thumb that swelled up to the size of a golf ball within an hour. I was already on antibiotics in preparation to have a root canal the following week, and the swelling went down a lot overnight, but I called the doctor the next day and he switched me to a different antibiotic just for good measure.

We started out calling her 'Punk,' because she didn't seem to know how to integrate with Tink. Tink, for her part, pouted, stopped playing 'moosie' and retreated to the back of the sofa. The artist soon to be known as Doodle spent much of her time sitting in things -- in the image above, she's reading a bag of Mad Magazines with her butt. She also likes to read the discarded newspapers with her butt, where we stack them, next to the dining room table.

She's almost creepily fond of sitting inside things -- anything her butt will fit in, she'll sit in.

Unlike Tink, who was robust and healthy from the very start and has only had to go to the vet once for anything other than her neuter and regular annual exams, we should have known Doodle would be different. She had a tapeworm and diarrhea when we first brought her home; she also developed what some vets call a 'pouting cat' swelling on her chin. We've since resigned ourselves to a few possibilities, since we seem to be the only ones who mind (she doesn't) -- she has some kind of autoimmune stuff going on that occasionally gives her skin symptoms; she's overly sensitive to something we use in the house, or to something like PVC or plastic that it's nearly impossible to avoid having in a house, these days; she occasionally has a reaction to her food, but it's not serious enough to hang around all the time. It's probably an allergy, and may not even be to anything in the house -- it could be pollen or mold, since she seems to have the most trouble at the changes of seasons.

There have been other problems, too, though none of them seems to disturb her much. Doodle's crazy as a nun full of mice, but she's sweet. She's one of a kind, dumb as the bag of hammers this web site is named for (and yeah, Doodle's the one who inspired the parking of the domain, as a matter of fact). We call her 'chaos kitty' because she can jump six feet and land on a postage stamp, but also falls off things, knocks things over and just generally creates disorder about as often as she creates grace.

She likes to go outside. We've built an enclosure for the cats and, occasionally, the dog to use, off the family room window in the back yard. It's sheltered under a big sugar maple, always at least partially in shade, secure from other animals or casual human incursion. (I'll post some photos from the building of the enclosure later, after all the introductions.) Before we had the enclosure, though, she learned and quite liked to go out on a harness and lead:

We've called Tink the 'Ubercat' since she reached her full growth at about age two; as this picture shows, Doodle is more of an 'Untercat' -- she likes to get in and under things. In this shot, she helps us set up the Christmas tree:

And here, she protects our toilet paper from the evil Mr. Whipple (or perhaps the evil Crisco Johnny):

Finally, this is the most recent picture we have of Doodle. In the past year, she's lost several teeth to neck lesions -- a disorder both cats and humans get, not well understood (at least to the point of agreement, according to our family dentist, who says he and his veterinarian wife often argue over the disorder!), that causes the body to resorb teeth at the root. The root is weakened and the gums become abscessed; the teeth always fall out or have to be pulled. Doodle lost seven teeth, but she still seems to be able to eat the small kibble we feed her, and now that she's no longer in pain she's just fine. You can't tell by looking she's lost any teeth because she still has her fangs. The vet says she'll probably lose all of her teeth before she's ten years old, but I don't imagine she'll care much.

For a couple of years, Doodle was 'my cat' -- she followed me around, wanted me to follow her around, and didn't connect with Tony nearly as much. Since the dog and Squeek, the other tortie meat, came into the household she's started spending a lot more time with Tony, camping on the sofa with him in the mornings and sitting on his lap when he's at his computer. That's okay by me -- the dog has decided he's mine, and he takes up a great deal more space and effort than any two of the cats ever wanted.

Doodle gets along okay with everybody but Gord, cat number three, who'll be the next introduction. Even at that, she seldom seems unhappy -- largely because it requires memory to hold a grudge, and Doodle's brain is full of holes, like a little kittybrain Swiss cheese. Even for a cat, she's no nuclear physicist. It's a damned good thing for her we decided to take her in off the street -- I doubt she'd have lasted long if sombeody hadn't.

We expect a shortened lifespan out of Doodle, with all the weird stuff that's cropped up -- much of it would indicate in vitro and early life malnutrition, which likely will affect her longevity. But she's happy, and she's one of the funniest animals I've ever seen, one of the most interactive -- she talks, or at least gives the appearance of talking, for instance. The voices of children give her the goo, though. I still wonder what she may have gone through before we brought her home, she's pathologically scared of strangers, though she will warm up well enough to come into the room after an hour or so. Maybe nothing -- some cats are just like that.

Posted by Melinda at November 6, 2004 01:37 PM


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